Salmon bosses dispute low HMRC export stats

The Scottish salmon farming industry has called for urgent action “to address discrepancies with export statistics published by the UK Government.”

The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) said there is an urgent need “for irregularities in post-Brexit HMRC export figures to be addressed in order for the full impact of Brexit to be known.”

Figures released by HMRC for January said that 80 tonnes of Scottish salmon had been exported to Europe.

But the SSPO said: “Official EU Eurostat import figures put the figure at 4,500 tonnes while Scottish salmon producers say they exported close to 5,000 tonnes of fish in January 2021.”

Farmed Scottish salmon remains the UK’s number one food export.

Giving evidence to the UK government’s Scottish Affairs Committee on Thursday, SSPO Director of Strategic Engagement Hamish Macdonell told MPs there was a “real issue over the validity of the export statistics” that had been put out by the UK Government.

Speaking outside the committee, Macdonell said: “Scotland’s salmon producers sent about 5,000 tonnes of salmon to Europe in January.

“The Eurostat system which records how much Scottish salmon went into the EU records about 4,500 tonnes arriving there.

“Yet according to the official HMRC figures published on behalf of the UK Government, we only exported 80 tonnes, which is only about three per cent of the amount that actually went there.

“There has been a big problem, at the very least in January in terms of the collation of the figures.

“Something happened to do with the way the figures were collected, and we don’t know who is to blame or where the problem has come from.

“But unless we can get a really proper baseline of how much fish is actually going into Europe it is impossible to tell what the impact of Brexit is.”

Under Secretary of State for Scotland David Duguid MP said: “There is an investigation ongoing and the HMRC are looking into where that discrepancy has come from.”

The SSPO said it flagged the discrepancy with HMRC as soon as the figures were released in March “but a solution to the inaccuracy with such a key export commodity has yet to be found.”

The SSPO added: “February’s export figures were more in line with expectations but the sector is looking for reassurance that the system and workflows for recording and reporting exports is now functioning properly.

“Scottish salmon producers have had to cope with significant delays since the Brexit transition period ended on January 1 and the full effects of Brexit came into effect.

“Despite improvements since January when it was taking many hours – and sometime days – to process orders of seafood for the continent, orders are still being held up because of the bureaucracy of the extra paperwork and lack of digitisation.

“It now takes around an additional two hours for each seafood load to be processed and given an export health certificate for transport to the EU and, in some case, this process is taking four hours or longer.

“These delays mean Scottish salmon risks not arriving in France on time, potentially leading to lost orders, discounted sales and disgruntled customers.

“According to figures collated by the SSPO, Scotland’s salmon producers are spending £200,000 a month on extra paperwork because of Brexit.

“This £2.5 million annual bill will come on top of the delays, cancellations and problems which have already cost the sector millions of pounds in lost orders, lower prices and cancelled harvests.”

About the Author

Mark McSherry
Dalriada Media LLC sites are edited by veteran news journalist Mark McSherry, a former staff editor and reporter with Reuters, Bloomberg and major newspapers including the South China Morning Post, London's Sunday Times and The Scotsman. McSherry's journalism has also appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times, London's Evening Standard and Forbes. McSherry is also a professor of journalism and communication arts in universities and colleges in New York City. Scottish-born McSherry has an MBA from the University of Edinburgh and a Certificate in Global Affairs from New York University.